Getting into Work
Think about work you’ve done in the past, your interests especially those which could be used in the workplace and of what you have to offer an employer. Are you in a position to look for paid work straight away or do you need to look for training? You can find out about courses in your area from your local library.
Don’t forget, you may have gained many useful skills while caring for a disabled child, such as time-management, organisation, telephone and letter writing skills, patience and knowledge of the benefits system.
You may feel that your lack of recent work experience wouldn’t look good to an employer or you need to reassure yourself that you have the confidence to seek work. In this case you might want to volunteer for a while.
Consult the Internet, employers’ own websites and recruitment websites, national, local and trade press. Contact agencies and Jobcentre Plus. Ask around friends, neighbours and ex-colleagues for news of vacancies. It may be worthwhile submitting your CV to organisations which are not currently advertising vacancies (but don’t expect many responses).
Sometimes advertisers will send you an application form. Sometimes you need to respond with a CV (Curriculum Vitae). Respect closing dates.
Commonly, an employer will provide job applicants with a ‘job description’ and a ‘person specification’. Read both carefully so you know what qualifications or experience are essential and what are desirable. You need to show that you meet the criteria in the person specification and are likely to be able to perform well in the job. You can show that you take pride in your work by making sure that your application is well-presented, you’ve followed instructions, such as using black ink, and your spelling is correct.
When you give your employment history, list all the jobs you’ve had in date order, starting with the most recent. Explain any gaps when you’ve been caring for your family, travelling etc.
There is usually a space to write about yourself and explain why you are the person for the job. This is the most important part of the form. You should make sure that you show the employer that you fit the person specification for the job and how your experience will equip you for the tasks in the job description.
A good tip is to ensure that you use plenty of sentences beginning with ‘I’. ‘I can carry out these tasks.’ ‘I have experience in these fields.’ You must back up your claims about your skills and abilities with examples. You can draw on all your experience of paid and unpaid work, caring and hobbies. You must show how it is relevant. For example, the person specification says you must work with accuracy; you can say: ‘I have three years’ experience as membership secretary of my local disability group. I keep accurate records of all the subscriptions people pay and when they fall due.’ As the parent of a disabled child you are likely to have useful experience of organising yourself and others, time management, dealing with agencies (Government departments, Health Professionals etc.) both face-to-face and on the phone.
Where possible include referees’ phone numbers so it is easy for potential employers to contact them.
Paper Application Forms
Read right through before you begin, fill them in pencil first and check them thoroughly.
Do not rely on being able to spell-check your application when completing an on-line form. You may be able to write and spell-check a Word document and cut and paste it into the application form.
A CV should be no longer than two or three sides of A4. As well as your name, address, email and telephone number, list your qualifications, employment history and explain how you are the person for the job, as above. Remember to tailor what you say about your skills and experience to fit the job you’re applying for.
If you can, get a friend to read through a draft of your application. They may help you pick up any errors that have crept in and also they will be able to tell you what sort of impression you are giving of yourself. Keep a copy of the application so you can remind yourself what you’ve said if you are called for an interview. Submit your application form or CV with a covering letter.
If possible do a practice interview with a friend. Allow plenty of time for travel to the interview. Don’t just give one word answers and back up what you are saying with examples of your good practice. You will have to decide how much you wish to reveal about your family circumstances at this stage but employers are not allowed to discriminate against you because you have a disabled child. The employer may set you a task as well as asking questions.
If you have a disability or health condition that affects the way you can work, contact the Disability Employment Adviser at your local Jobcentre about whether Access to Work can help.